Meet Alice, a Senior Test Engineer here at TAB. In our latest TABber career story, Alice shares all about what makes testing at TAB so unique, and gives some special insights into some of the things she has gotten up to in time here so far!
What was your life before TAB?
I started my career in Film & Media Studies but I took my first step into testing about 10 years ago back home in New Zealand. After falling in love with testing and working at Trade Me (the New Zealand eBay equivalent) for a few years, I decided I wanted a new experience and to see another part of the world so I moved to the UK in August 2013. While I worked in testing for various startups across London, I was always the only tester in the company and I felt like it was time to be in a role where I had other testers to learn from and bounce ideas off. I fell in love with the culture at TAB very quickly and haven’t looked back since!
So you are part of the Testing CoP. Tell us about how your CoP approaches testing and what you enjoy most?
TAB’s approach to testing is very unique and different to my previous testing roles. Testing at TAB truly focuses on building quality in and across the whole software lifecycle, rather than just an afterthought and something only to be considered before release. It spans the whole breadth of what we do at TAB. Testers are involved in all the considerations across a product lifecycle. We help ask key questions in the process like - are we building products that our users are going to use?, ‘are we building it with the right tools’, ‘the right software language’, ‘is it going to be fast?’, ‘are there any security concerns?’. The majority of companies have a perception that testing is a quality check you do at the end of software changes but we know it is much cheaper to fix a bug on a piece of paper when you are coming up with an idea, than it is to fix a bug when it is already in production and being used daily. As a tester I’ve often felt a bit of an afterthought where your value can often be overlooked, but at TAB you become an intrinsic part of the project team where you can make meaningful contributions which I love.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Every morning begins with a daily standup with the whole product team to identify any potential blockers and set priorities for the day ahead. Aside from the routine of that, my typical role day to day is very diverse. It can range from reviewing documentation we’ve built, having a refinement to talk about what stories to build today, what defines our acceptance criteria, or reviewing user stories that would go into building a piece of functionality or a feature. Fortnightly retrospectives are another key part of life at TAB helping us make continuous improvements in our ways of working to ensure we are working as effectively as possible. Aside from that, my days are also peppered with 1-1’s with TABbers which I manage. These typically take place over a walk as I find they give me an excellent opportunity to hear how people are progressing, find out how I can best support their career development and goals, and allows us to share learnings and experiences with each other in an informal way.
What is it like to work at TAB?
It’s definitely the people at TAB that make it so special for me. I’ve worked at a lot of places where the product is the only focus but I’ve found TAB has a unique ability to balance hiring great people, with creating great products without compromising quality - in fact quite the opposite! From a more personal perspective, if you want to learn, or try your hand at something new, there is always someone at TAB who can help and support you until you get to where you want to be. It’s the simple things such as feeling comfortable to approach anyone, regardless of their position, and ask them for support, to beat ideas up with you, or even just someone to go for a quick 5 minute walk with to clear your head. It’s an extremely difficult culture to maintain, especially as TAB scales at such a fast pace. However, during my time at TAB I’ve seen the business grow rapidly and I continue to be impressed at how they have been able to scale that culture so well and so organically. It really is why I love working at TAB!
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced at TAB and how did you overcome it?
About 18 months ago I was put on one of TAB’s biggest projects at the time, where I led a team of 12 testers. Leading such a big group of testers wasn’t something I’d had a lot of experience in, but it was at the request of the client and I was excited to step up to the challenge. It was a significant leap in my career development as not only was it my first time leading a project of this scale, but half of the testers in the team were from the client side. This created its own unique set of challenges and a lot of dynamics which I hadn’t anticipated having to encounter. I quickly had to learn how to figure out how to navigate and support a group of people who didn’t know each other but who were all working towards the same common goal and outcomes. It was definitely my biggest challenge since I’ve been at TAB but I learnt so much about myself, and TAB really created a space where I felt supported to break out of my comfort zone and develop my career much quicker than I could have done anywhere else.
Finally, if you had to describe TAB in 5 words what would they be?
Caring, Passionate, Bright, Hardworking, Colourful.